Review: Bad Feminist

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Bad Feminist
by Roxane Gay

★★★★½

2014 • 336 pages • Harper Perennial

In Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, you will find three versions of the eponymous essay. The final product opens the collection and two of its preceding drafts close it. They’re different enough that it doesn’t feel repetitive, but bookending the entire collection with them makes perfect sense. It shows how rocky the terrain of our current culture is, humanizes the writing process (which can feel sterilized in the seemingly permanent spaces of either the Internet or print), and drives home Gay’s point: that she “would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all” (318). For Gay (and, I would hope, for us all) being a feminist is an active process.

To be a feminist in the digital age is to be easily able to find both your community and those who would stand against you—even (and perhaps especially) those who also consider themselves feminists but are not committed to the cause as to a version of it that benefits them. There’s always that moment when a new acquaintance brings up Caitlin Moran and I tense up, wondering if they, too, subscribe to the same kind of cissexist feminism that doesn’t believe in intersectionality. To quote Flavia Dzodan, “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.” I have, in my long time on the Internet, sought out, found, stumbled across, and otherwise just looked up to find myself in complex feminist (and if not explicitly feminist, feminist-minded) spaces that have much more to teach me than I have to teach them. Reading Bad Feminist, I was reminded of nothing more than that online feminist universe that I haunt, to the point that discovering where versions of the collected essays had been previously published in the acknowledgements read quite a bit like my Feedly.

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Review: The Final Solution

The Final Solution by Michael Chabon

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As ideologically mixed as I am on How To Be Gay, it’s nonetheless provided me with some fresh analytical lens. I knew what a subculture was, of course, but had never thought of it in context of its relationship to the culture at large. (It’s hard to take a step that far back to get a better vantage point.) A subculture requires a culture to be sub to. It can only be understood in the context of that grander culture, which it reacts, negatively or positively, to. Of course, this is getting complicated as the (American) monoculture continues to splinter, but the point remains.

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Review: A Curious Invitation

A Curious Invitation by Suzette Field

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Last week, Liz Bourke tackled Sarah Silverwood’s Nowhere Chronicles, a YA urban fantasy trilogy that takes place in a world where the few women who actually exist are extensions of male characters, any character from a racial minority dies, and physical disability is linked to abusing magic. She is, understandably, unhappy. In the context of an SF community desperately trying to break the orbit of people who still don’t understand why we need to care about women or people of color or queer folk, it’s troubling stuff.

As Bourke says:

Prejudice can be loud or obvious, and it can be quiet, unmarked, part of the sea in which we swim. Silverwood’s Nowhere Chronicles uphold a biased view of the world, which is to say: they’re bloody sexist.

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Review: Native Son

Native Son by Richard Wright

I’m not sure why, but I tend to view American history as pre-Depression and post-Depression. A more reasonable dividing line is surely World War II, but I tend to think of the 1930s as a time when nothing cool happened in America, life pretty much sucked, and then oh thank God Nazis we’ve got something to do. (As you might be able to discern, I am no historian.) So I was looking forward to picking up Native Son for my African-American Novel class because it had jumped that dividing line for me. And then it just kept going…

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Review: Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

As a fairly recent comic book fan and general casual reader of comics, I’ve been struggling a bit with articulating my responses to them. It’s the same problem I was having with film at the beginning of the year; I simply don’t have the tools to properly critique and analyze the form, being a child of literature. But there’s a simple solution. For film, I was lucky enough to be able to take a class—for comics, the general consensus is to read Scott McCloud. After reading The Influencing Machine, I made a vow (…well, an off-hand comment) to read Understanding Comics before taking on any more of the medium, and so here we are.

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Review: The Printmaker’s Daughter

The Printmaker’s Daughter by Katherine Govier

It’s the nature of the beast—when I request a book from NetGalley, it’s like checking out a book I’ve never heard of from a library I’ve visited in the dark. All I’m hearing about the book in question is what the publisher wants me to hear, and my work at the literary agency is teaching me to speak that language, so I tend to distrust it. (I distinctly remember that the cover copy for Among Others was very unrepresentative of the novel as a whole…) In any case, that’s my way of trying to avoid the fact that I picked it on sheer impulse instead of the usually more interesting stories of how other books have come to me.

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Review: I Am Not Myself These Days

I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

I’m not usually interested in tell-all memoirs–something about getting all the sordid details of someone’s past straight from the horse’s mouth makes me uncomfortable. I can take it in a biography, but a person baring it all with a vengeance makes me want to cover my eyes. So why did I even bother to pick up I Am Not Myself These Days? Well, in my Internet travels, I stumbled across the personal website of Josh Kilmer-Purcell, who seemed like a lovely gentleman and looked quite fetching in his old photos from his drag queen days, from which he has since retired. I saw that he had written a memoir and I decided to give it a shot.

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Review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was actually the first Michael Chabon novel I ever heard of, although I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay first. The alternate history hook in something that was not especially considered speculative fiction interested me, as well as the fairly glowing reviews I saw. After adoring The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, I just had to read more of his work.

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Review: The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes

The concept of slash–that is, the reading of characters assumed to be straight as gay–is nothing new to me. It is among the many gifts Lady Trekkies bestowed upon geeks of all stripes well before my time. But it’s something you find in fandom, not mainstream fiction. I was mightily intrigued by Myrlin A. Hermes’ The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet for this reason. It is, by no means, the first piece of work to assume Hamlet is gay, but it’s certainly the first published work I know of that assumes the same.

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Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman

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I love Neil Gaiman’s work. I first picked up American Gods during middle school (do nerd children ever read anything at an appropriate age?), and I was astounded. It was so vastly different from anything I’d ever read before, and turned everything I knew about mythology into something even better. I bought Anansi Boys as soon as it came out, and it was even better than American Gods. Good Omens is the first novel I laughed out loud at.This is all to say that I’ve been meaning to read Neverwherefor a very long time, and now, I finally have! Continue reading